Some churches just look kinda amazing on the outside – but then are a major disappointment when you get in. Well, they’re often ancient, beautiful, calm, lovely, but oh so dark, oh so huge, oh so impractical…..
St. Thomas Church, Batley is the opposite. Huge, dark, imposing and grim on the outside, especially on a rainy day. But get inside and it’s a whole different world. No pews, they’re long gone. It’s all chairs. And carpet. And the best thing is the big east window. RED, so very RED! And the choir stalls have little red lamps, matching the red window. Just in case you hadn’t noticed, I LOVE red! And I love St. Thomas Church. Always have. Ever since I first came here in about 1990, when Rev. Lindsay Dew was vicar. That’s 4 vicars ago. I measure time according to the number of vicars past. So it’s 25 years. Where has the time gone?!
Now there’s a new vicar, Rev. Mark Umpleby. Just arrived as vicar last November. Fantastic. Such a blessing. He’s so lovely! As are all the church members. Hearts of gold. Salt of the earth. True Yorkshire folks. Spades are definitely called spades round here. And Yorkshire hospitality at its best. Roast dinner with 8 dishes. Yes 8! That was Molly ~ where I stayed. She cooked and cooked all weekend. And she’s over 80. Amazing. Incredible.
So a weekend of feasting and talking and speaking and meeting all my old friends and making new ones. There’s 4 churches in the Batley Cluster, and yesterday St. Andrew’s Church, Purlwell also joined us for the morning worship. So good to see so many families in church. All supporting everything, including CMS. And they presented me with a £250 cheque for CMS, raised from their Lent Lunches.
Batley is close to Dewsbury, where I was a few weeks ago, both are old mill towns. Now Batley even has the UK’s biggest retail mill just down the road. Both towns have very large Asian Muslim communities, and the churches are on the front-line of community building and interfaith ministry.
So a fantastic weekend – and so nice to meet all my old friends again! Oh yes, and some visitors came who it turned out I’d known years ago in Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield. Ah, it’s a small world!
Thank you Mark, Molly and everyone at St. Thomas, Batley ~ YES, a great church!